What are common law rights?

Common law rights are established by societal customs and case law and are not governed by statute. Common law trademark rights arise from actual use in commerce and provide protection to the first person to use the mark. Common law rights are limited to the geographic region in which the trademark owner is offering the goods and services. Thus, a common law owner in New York cannot prevent a competing business from using the same trademark in California. To gain nationwide protection, the owner must use the mark in all 50 states or obtain federal registration.

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